Mullan criticises EA overspend

Sinn Féin Education spokesperson Karen Mullan MLA has criticised a huge overspend by the Education Authority (EA) and again called on the body to recruit financial expertise to help manage its budget.

The Foyle MLA was speaking after the Audit Office criticised the EA for overspending its budget by £19m in 2016-17.

She said: “What is clear form the report is the shortage of funding going to education and the inability of the Education Authority to effectively manage its budget.

“Clearly the allocation of its budget just days before the start of the financial year placed the EA at a considerable disadvantage but the fact that it took them a further five months, until August 2016, to agree how the budget would be managed is not acceptable. During that time schools were left in the unenviable position of trying to plan for their school year without knowing what their finances would be.”

Karen Mullan added: “Despite the EA knowing what its budget was and the requirement not to exceed it, the EA oversaw a £19.1 million overspend. It is also expected that the EA will exceed its 2017-18 budget. Clearly these overspends demonstrate that the EA does not have effective structures in place to ensure budget compliance.

“I have previously called for the EA to co-opt an account or financial specialist onto the EA Board in line with the Audit Office guidance and that should now be done.”